An explosive and perceptive biography of the novelist who wrote Crash and Empire of the Sun
In this first biography, John Baxter draws on an admiration of and acquaintance with Ballard that began when they were writers for the same 1960s science fiction magazines. With the help of the few people whom he admitted to his often hermit-like existence, it illuminates the troubled reality behind the urbane and amiable facade of a man who was proud to describe himself as "psychopathic." To many people, J.G. Ballard will always be the schoolboy in Steven Spielberg's movie Empire of the Sun, struggling to survive as an internee of the Japanese during World War II. Others remember him as the author of Crash, a meditation on the eroticism of the automobile and the liebstod of the car crash. The book he styled "the first pornographic novel about science" dramatized the reality behind his formula for the 21st century—"Technology x sex = the future." It too became a film, and a cause célèbre for its frank depiction of a fetish which, as this book reveals, was no literary conceit but a lifelong preoccupation. Uniquely among his contemporaries, Ballard understood and exploited the language of advertising and promotion. Because of him, the term "inner space" and phrases like "the only alien planet is Earth" passed into the language. So did the adjective "Ballardian"—"resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard's novels and stories, esp. dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments."
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The serious biographer never excuses the subject out of admiration, nor sullies his works with scandal. Baxter, by profession a biographer of actors and film directors, demonstrates a deep, thoughtful and appreciative reading of Ballard’s work.Read Full Review of The Inner Man: The Life of J.... | See more reviews from National Post arts